Senior swimmers look for big finish
The senior swimmers on this year’s Emmaus team had a bit of an advantage when coach Tim O’Connor rejoined the Emmaus Aquatic Club staff specifically to work with the seniors on the team.
The added work seemed to give them more insight into what it takes to compete in the sport and has helped them develop new routines, which have helped them make it through their final high school season.
One of the seniors, Ricky Thomas, told O’Connor back in January that he had “figured it out,” and was ready for a big season, which he has been able to put together thanks to the extra work. Thomas never really specified what the “it” was that he was referring to, but whatever it is, O’Connor has been impressed.
“Being back with EMAC and coaching the senior group I think has been phenomenal,” said O’Connor after both the boys and girls teams beat Northampton last week. “I think it gives the kids consistency 12 months out of the year and consistency in what we expect from them. These kids are very, very good at working and being good teammates and leaders and still having fun. The last couple months, they’ve ramped up the intensity, but I want them to keep having fun and swimming fast. I want them to enjoy this.”
The senior class includes two girls. Jess Hurlburt has battled injuries and is still highly regarded among divers in the area and Erin Coffey joined the team just last season as a diver, but converted to swimming for her senior season, which surprised O’Connor.
“I’ve never had somebody leave diving to be a swimmer, especially in their senior year, because you’ve witnessed what the swimmers go through and you still say ‘I want to do that,’” O’Connor said with a laugh. “She’s been so great to get to know on a personal level and an athletic level.”
For Coffey, who wants to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy in college, the switch to swimming has given her two very different and distinct experiences with the team that she’s going to remember.
“It was like a 180,” said Coffey about the transition. “There’s definitely more people on the swimming side, so I made a lot of new friends and got to swim a whole bunch of individual events and dropped a lot of time in them.”
On the boys side, there are five seniors: Mike Brennan, Cole Connolly, Colby Kocon, Pat McAllister and Thomas. O’Connor has seen each of them blossom and notes that they all have distinctive personalities that added to the flavor of this year’s group.
“Pat McAllister was one of the first kids when I got back involved with EMAC who started training with us and we were able to hook him up with a couple of college visits and Monmouth is a great place for him,” said O’Connor. “Mikey Brennan’s passion is infectious and he’s been fantastic and will do great things whether it’s Villanova or the Naval Academy and Cole Connolly is like our GQ guy, but he’s a lover of life and he’s always helping the team and working hard and he really wanted to improve on some things and he’s been doing that.”
O’Connor found that Kocon took a moment out of last year’s district meet to use as a motivation for his senior season. Heading into last year’s districts, Kocon was on an A-relay team, but at the last minute, another swimmer impressed O’Connor and Kocon found himself out of the event.
“He’s never forgotten that and he’s worked his butt off so that doesn’t happen again,” said O’Connor. “He really took it as a learning experience and he understood what the point was, that it was about the team and about his own individual improvement.”
Kocon, who hasn’t decided on a college yet, wants to pursue a degree in government and political science with a minor in history.
“I definitely improved from where I started, but it was more about learning about being part of a team. It taught me about myself and pushing myself to do things that I didn’t think I had and developing mental toughness,” Kocon said. “I took that to heart and realized that if you go into things with a good mentality, then you’ll come out with the best possible result.”